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Employers May Require Psychological Counseling For Employees Under Certain Circumstances

In Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Authority, the court addressed whether the White Lake Ambulance Authority's ("WLAA") decision to require one of its emergency medical technicians to undergo psychological counseling as a condition of her continued employment violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). In an opinion dated May 22, 2013, the Honorable Gordon J. Quist concluded that requiring that Kroll undergo a psychological examination as a condition of her continued employment was appropriate under the circumstances and entered summary judgment in favor of WLAA.

The court began its analysis by noting that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently held that psychological counseling constitutes a "medical examination" under the ADA. Under the ADA an employer may require an employee to submit to a medical examination where that medical examination "is job-related and consistent with business necessity." In other words, an employer may require a medical examination "where the employer has a reasonable belief based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee's ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition."

The court reviewed the facts presented in the summary judgment briefs and concluded that there was significant evidence of concerns about Kroll's emotional health, which appeared to be impacting her work performance as an EMT. Specifically, there was evidence that Kroll's emotional issues were causing her to behave in unsafe ways, such as texting while driving patients in her ambulance. Because Kroll's job involved the treatment and care of others, the plaintiff's apparent emotional problems had the potential to place her co-workers and patients at risk of serious injury or even death.

The court rejected the argument that less intrusive disciplinary action should have been taken by WLAA against the plaintiff. The court found that it was important for WLAA to have a proper assessment of whether the plaintiff's emotional health issues were impairing her ability to perform the essential functions of her EMT position in a safe manner and that the only way of doing so was through a psychological evaluation. When Kroll refused to undertake the psychological evaluation, WLAA's termination of her employment did not violate the ADA.

© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume III, Number 149


About this Author

Bryan R. Walters, Varnum, business and IP litigation lawyer

Bryan helps companies successfully resolve business disputes, representing clients in a wide range of industries including manufacturing, health care, and professional services. Bryan believes in an individualized approach to each situation; some disputes are best resolved through early negotiation/mediation, while others should be actively litigated in court. Bryan is particularly experienced in federal court litigation, both in West Michigan and across the country. He also represents clients in intellectual property disputes involving trademarks, copyrights, patents,...